Last month, I published a post that focused on the difference between wealth and income.
When I first embarked on my FI journey, my entire focus was to find my big number and reach it as fast as possible. My FI number is the single biggest goal I’ve focused on for over a year (with my student debt as the only possible exception). The problem with being so focused on one goal, however, is that it can eat into other parts of your life.
The pursuit of wealth is freedom from financial stress
That is, the pursuit of wealth should be the pursuit of freedom from worrying about wealth. This is a real point of confusion, I think. There isn’t anything wrong with focusing on building your net worth, growing your nest egg, trying to maximize earnings potential, etc. We do these things for peace of mind and financial security. The problem arises when building wealth becomes the ultimate goal. What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money? Travel, start your own business, spend time with your family? These are the goals to not lose sight of.
Don’t wait forever to do what you want to do
My father is a workaholic. He’s a talented electrical engineer who’s good at what he does and has a lot of respect from his coworkers and colleagues. My mother worries about his health. I worry about his health, too. In the past few years, I’ve felt much more comfortable discussing finances with my father. He’s opened up about the importance of building a nest egg, having a successful career, and being happy. He’s always been a great provider for the family. I’m afraid he’ll never get the chance to do more. As much as I love and respect him, I don’t want to be him.
For many years, I’ve had this dream to live/travel abroad. I don’t have a job that allows me to easily work remotely, so I’m working on developing other marketable skills. However, I know that I’ll likely see a significant decrease in earnings potential by living abroad, and that scares me. At the moment, fulfilling my dream of moving abroad completely opposes my goal of FIRE by 35. So, I have a few options. I can choose between them, adjust one goal so it doesn’t oppose the other, or find an alternate income stream that will help me accomplish both.
These things take time. It’s good to have goals to work towards, but they shouldn’t be all-consuming. I’m not going to wait until I reach FIRE to live my life; I just need to do a little life re-prioritization.
Wealth vs. Worth
As Ian says, “There are a lot of metrics by which one can measure success. Wealth is a common choice, but it only skims the experiences and impact of one’s life.”
Use wealth as a benchmark to track financial freedom, retirement goals, or homeownership targets, but don’t let it define your purpose, your achievements, or your larger pursuits. Wealth may define your net worth, but it’s not your personal worth.
There are still so many things I have to learn from more knowledgeable personal finance bloggers; one of the best things about Cash Fasting is that it’s given me the platform to talk about my financial views of the world while receiving input and insight via blog comments and twitter discussions. While tracking and blogging about my net worth and FIRE will continue to be a huge focus for me, it’s not going to get in the way of traveling and pursuing (admittedly expensive) hobbies that I enjoy.